Bet you can't get Van Halen out of your head right now! We visited Panama for two reasons, first to see Dale's daughter, who has been living in Bocas del Toro, Panama for a year. The second was to explore whether Panama City would be a good place for us to retire some day.
Dos Dias in Panama City
Panama City was an interesting juxtaposition of towering, new skyscrapers, older buildings being renovated, and really, really poor areas. We stayed in the El Cangrejo (crab) district of Panama City, named this way because the streets spread out in the shape of a crab, which also meant that Darcie could not possibly navigate the city. In fact, no one can navigate the city because traffic is atrocious. Often we could walk to a destination in the same amount of time that Uber could get us there. The Cangrejo neighborhood was fun and crowded with bars, restaurants, shops and casinos. We also jogged along the city coastline. It is not nearly as scenic or developed as what we experienced in other cities and we hope the city continues to invest in its coastline.
The highlight of our trip was definitely the visit to the Panama Canal. Besides their standard visitor center activities, we witnessed a cargo ship go through the locks. Basically, a ship has to pass through waterways inside of Panama, and these interior waters are at a different sea level than the surrounding oceans. The man-made locks are places where the ship docks in water. The dock is flooded with more water so the ship gets elevated or lowered to a new sea level as the ship passes through interior lakes.
Below is our video of a cargo ship going through the canal. We can't tell if there is Valspar paint on the shipping containers...
Inside the visitor center was a canal pilot simulation room where you could pretend to guide a ship through the canal.
The expansion of the canal was also completed recently (2016) so even larger cargo ships, like the Evergreen below, can pass through. We could not see that process up close.
On our last day, we walked to Casca Viejo, a section of Panama city that still has older buildings that are being remodeled. It is clearly an upscale part of the city, with quaint shops, restaurants and cafes in addition to the beautiful architecture.
Bocas del Toro, our next destination, is a very small resort town on the Caribbean coast of Panama. There are 2 options for getting to Bocas Del Toro from Panama City: a cheap, 12-hour, bus ride or a short flight on a prop plane, for 5x the cost. Dale nixed the bus ride. On this trip, we quickly learned that flights in and out of Bocas del Toro are on tiny planes on tiny airlines that cancel flights frequently. So, our original Panama Air flight to Bocas was canceled, and we got assigned to the last (evening) flight instead. We flew out of Panama City's domestic airport, which didn't look much bigger than some of the US municipal airports that Dale has flown out of. We flew on a Fokker 50 turbo prop plane, with voice-overs from Dale about its specs including how the plane taxis, takes off, the altitude at which it flies, and eventually, the landing.
Our next post will be from Bocas, where we reunited with Amanda and met Roberto.